Creating sales incentives that work

Sell More BetterKey points that make the perfect sales incentive discussed by John Sylvester in Sales Initiative Magazine.

Offering inspiring rewards will help to get the most out of your team

It is important to offer your team non-cash rewards as part of your sales incentive. When chosen correctly they are more motivational than cash and can provide a much higher return on investment for you as an employer.


Cash rewards often get lost in the payment of bills or other household necessities, so offering something that can provide a memorable reward of their choice is the best way to get the most out of your team. When creating an incentive scheme, ensure that you know what the individual members of your team would like; research this if necessary and under no circumstances rely on repeating a previously successful reward – tastes change!

Vouchers and gift cards, experiential treats, merchandise and travel incentives are all popular choices and if the reward scheme is well designed it will not only increase staff motivation to sell, and staff loyalty, but also build on staff retention. Productivity will increase, performance will improve and your customers will start to experience a higher level of satisfaction as your improved staff work better for them.


The key to setting up an incentive scheme or recognition programme successfully is following a basic set of rules. Firstly, make sure that you set clear goals, that whilst being ambitious are also realistically achievable for each individual, from the top performers to the trainees. Once you have your goals set up, ensure you apply consistent and transparent rules and offer enticing staff rewards and, most importantly, choice. Get senior management on board and ensure they are publicly endorsing your scheme. Communicate with your team at every stage to revive enthusiasm and update them on progress and above all, keep it simple.


Communication is crucial

What’s in it for me? That is what your sales team will be asking – what do you want me to do, how do you want me to do it, and what do I get out of it? A clear communication plan should aid the launch of any motivation scheme, maintain the participation by keeping employees engaged and drive momentum and improve employee performance throughout the life of the programme.



Using sales incentive data is paramount. Regular analysis right from the start will help to ensure that your efforts are correctly directed. Data is your most valuable asset, it is the foundation to your decision making, the key to improvement and it is essential to drive both team and individual performance. Data driven content is relevant content; it provides real time information which you can translate into motivational messages to improve morale. Responding to what data says can highlight the need to drive engagement, push targets and competition and increase participation.


The biggest problems

The biggest problems are caused by avoidable, but common mistakes. The first to note is failing to align staff incentives with your business strategy and objectives – take a look at your business, what do you want to work more efficiently? Identify the key behaviours that you want to reward before you start to reward them.

Another blunder often found in sales incentive schemes is that goals and targets have been set at levels that are unrealistic or too easy. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, incentive schemes must be tailored. Be careful of unsuitable rewards too – there is not much point offering a quiet cruise to a young team.

lift sales with incentivesMake sure that if you start a motivation scheme, you keep up momentum. Employee of the month will not incentivise your team if it becomes employee of the quarter. Also make sure that you avoid appearing to show favouritism. There will almost certainly be some members of your team who work harder and bring in better results, but if you only reward these people you will alienate and de-motivate other members of the team. Those with low sales will achieve even less. Make special awards that can include everyone such as ‘most improved this month’.

Perhaps the most important mistake to note is confusing pay rises and promotions with incentives. In order to keep your workforce motivated, no matter what incentive schemes you have in place; there must be a clear career path visible. Keep it clear and separate, blurred boundaries between incentives and promotions will again only serve to de-motivate those who are doing less well.


The finale

Once the scheme has concluded and the rewards decided, employee recognition should be shared. Do not send an email, or leave an envelope on your employees’ desks, but make an event of the presentation of rewards earned so that each person publicly receives the personal thanks of the senior management and the acclaim of their peers.


In conclusion

Creating sales incentives that work must be a top priority. When implemented correctly, staff motivation programmes improve staff performance, which in turn improves the bottom line of the company.


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The proof is in the pudding – case study

Volvo sales incentive case studyVolvo wanted a programme to increase sales by 25% of their higher specification cars and increase sales of dealer fit accessories.

Their aim was to create a sales incentive with longevity to last beyond tactical initiatives that rewarded both sales and after sales staff. P&MM created an online incentive platform which offered the flexibility to add tactical campaigns as required. With a core identity ‘The Hub’ provided a one stop shop for all sales and after sales incentives.

With an increase in car sales of 27% (over double that of the previous year) and an increase of 32.5% in accessory sales, the programme continues to be a real success. Furthermore the programme received a Silver Award for the Best Sales Incentive Programme at the Institute of Promotional Marketing Awards.


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